In my late teenage years, there was a semi-poignant chat with my Pop that boiled down to one sentiment from him… "I love you because you’re my kid, but I can’t take this stress anymore." I always thought I’d end up understanding that phrase better with one of my own kids, but have come to find I never fully understood what he was saying until this season with these Denver Nuggets. Holy stressful, boys. I think after I write this, I’ll be having a scotch. Let’s recap…
Well, it was pretty, and then it wasn’t. It was effortful, and then it wasn’t. It was well executed, and then it wasn’t. But in the end, your Denver Nuggets rescued victory from the jaws of defeat in yet another roller coaster game in this roller coaster season. Denver came out of the gates with energy, effort, and execution: the great E’s debated so hotly of late on Denver Stiffs. I’m finally coming to the conclusion they all walk hand in hand with this particular squad, but give the boys credit for continually coming back in each of those areas to the point that they ground out a win against the Memphis Grizzlies. With the energy/effort/execution combo, the Nuggets were successful early against Memphis, at one point stretching a lead to 16 with a combination of attacking offense, above-average shooting, defensive schemes and effort. Even when they suffered early setbacks, they ended up with a lot of second chances simply based on their quickness to the ball. Strong early shooting (welcome back, Randy Foye), exceptional low post play by Timofey Mozgov (12 points and two blocks at the half, Mozzie only had four more points in the second half) and a blur named Ty Lawson kept the Grizzlies at bay throughout the first half, with the Nuggets closing out that set up by 10. But, in the last few minutes, the good guys looked tired and… we’ve seen this before recently, haven’t we?
Yes. Yes we have. And the second half was every Nuggets’ fan monster-under-the-bed as the Nuggets gave back all of the lead and more in the third quarter. The extra minutes for the starters caught up with them, and suddenly the Nuggets were backing away from every play, and tentative to the ball and the rim. Brian Shaw eventually took this as a cue to start shifting bodies, and brought back some of his more successful players from the bench and the first half (I’m getting to you, Evan Fournier) and staunched the bleeding enough that the Nuggets were able to get some energy back into the game, and it was a game of runs for both squads from there..
Thankfully, Denver was able to put closing touches on a solid win against a team that didn’t play as if they were on the second of a back-to-back on the road. That and tacos for the home crowd sealed an overly late Christmas present for the Nuggets faithful. Solid rebounding from all five spots and gutty play earned the Nuggets a long needed victory.
Ty Lawsohad 18 points and 12 assists to go with 3 steals on the night, and aside from some really sloppy turnovers and play in the third quarter, Ty was a solid contributor all night long. Evan Fournier came off the bench early, and contributed well in his 21 minutes with 12 points and a ton of effort plays. Evan found himself in the middle of a lot of the action and made good things happen on the floor, and saw some love from Shaw in the postgame commentary because of it. How he couldn’t crack a 14-man rotation, but is the first guy off the bench in a 9-man is beyond me, but I’m happy for his readiness when called upon. Mozzie was a force of nature in the first half, and I was sure Shaw had shorted him minutes unnecessarily in the second half due to his low point total there. Surprisingly, Timo got 10 minutes in the half, and was just less a factor. Denver had six guys in double figures with Lawson, Fournier, Foye, Mozgov, Kenneth Faried and Nate Robinson all ringing that bell.
For once, I didn’t see a lot that was driving me crazy (save that second half opening), but if anyone was giving me fits tonight, J.J. Hickson was the guy. Seven points in 23 minutes, slow feet and rotations after the first five minutes and getting abused by Zach Randolph made it rough on J.J. To be fair, Z-Bo was feeling it tonight, and even solid effort by his old teammate Darrell Arthur couldn’t keep him from the hoop. Strangely, Darth had six points in 20 minutes (about the same as J.J.), and still seemed a much better option against Randolph when I was watching. Odd perspective.
At the end of the day, the monkey is off our backs, and the Nuggets head to L.A. and the Lakers without the worry of ten on their minds. How are we feeling, Nuggets Nation?